A big crew of us left after work for a Friday night sub-24 hour backpacking trip. I’ve been wanting a trip like this for a long time.
We hiked the five miles in the dark – no headlamps. Had a camp fire. Whiskey. Stayed up late. Crawled into bed under huge oak trees.
Saturday, most of us packed up and headed out early. A few stayed – and reported river otters.
I didn’t take any photos. I hardly brought gear. Bag, pad, two burritos and not much else.
It was a great time with good friends.
I saw WILD, the movie, as part of a pre-release screening last Friday. I loved it.
Already in SF, I headed over to Dani’s house to ride with him up to Lake Tahoe. We made it before I fell asleep.
Saturday, we met Kyle and Simone at Meeks Bay, left a car and drove to Echo Lake. We’d walk the thirty some-odd miles between the two over the next day and a half.
We slept at Fontanillis Lake, up high in the rocks, after a long day of walking.
The cabins on Echo Lake really are special. Those that own them are incredibly fortunate. Lake Aloha on the other hand was at its most depressing. Come fall, it’s always low, showing bathtub ring lines, stained rock and dirt. I’m not sure if it was especially dried up because of the drought, or if it’s sorry state was nothing unusual.
I’d only ever crossed Dicks Pass on my PCT hike. That day it was one of the scariest ice sheets of my hike. This weekend there was just a dusting of snow from a recent October storm. Still, I was surprised at how steep the north side of the pass was. I imagine that it’s always a challenge when it’s covered in snow.
We left the PCT just south of Middle Velma Lake. We’d thought of going all the way to Barker Pass (or crazily, to Donner Pass) but a shorter trip was still more than plenty walking. Leaving via Phipps Pass was a perfect choice. The views, especially south of Phipps Peak looking back toward where we came from, were great. It really gave me the feeling of having walked across all of Desolation even though we technically didn’t.
I have my first real blisters in years. One of them is the good type: blood spreading up between the soft space near my big toe. After eight days on trail, I’m not walking anywhere today. This is trip two of my hiking vacation.
Deciding to hike a bit of the PCT, and wanting to finally visit Huckleberry Lake, I slept in my car just off Highway 108.
Southbound from Sonora Pass is one of my favorite sections of the Crest Trail. It’s rare to be so high for so long on an alpine ridge. Add the fact that it’s volcanic, rather than granitic, and it’s a stretch of trail that has stuck strongly in my mind since 2006.
I camped that first night on the West Fork of the Walker River – a place that I figured would be lame because it’s in the forest and I’m snobbish towards the sub-alpine zone. Bedding down off the PCT, I found an old trail sign standing guard over tread that no one walks. Sitting alone, thinking, staring at my map, I thought of the long-ago routes like the one we walked the day before down Post Peak drainage. Tonight’s area had important names: Fremont Lake, Walker River, Emigrant Pass, Emigrant Wilderness. I’m a sucker for early frontier history. Joseph Walker and John Fremont are high up on my list of history’s cool guys. It turns out that the West Walker Route of the California Trail was first walked by the Clark-Skidmore Party in 1852. It wasn’t a good one.
The rest of the trip was marked by walking obscure trails – while technically speaking, not actually going cross country.
I looped down into Yosemite from Hoover Wilderness and then crossed into Emigrant via Bond Pass. I stopped to explore the Montezuma Mine – which I assume predates the 1930s declaration of Emigrant as a primitive area. Before the trip, I compared my four maps of the area and found trails that aren’t included on newer publications. I walked those. At one of the remotest lakes of my week, I was surprised to find two other guys. Pounding miles, I crossed once again into to Yosemite then missed an obscure junction. Foot sore, I ended up at Huckleberry for the night.
The area is pretty damn abused by commercial pack companies. My end of Huckleberry Lake was disappointing with it’s huge, dusty, shit-filled camp and braided stock trails.
Day three was another highlight – swimming between islands, a fun chat with a trail crew (they took my book, Water for Elephants, that I had finished that morning), another scarcely there historic route and the linking of the Emigrant Lakes all the way from the granite domes to the volcanic peaks at High Emigrant Lake.
Being alone for four days was wonderful. Time to read, think, reset, look at birds.
This week’s hiking was made more delicious by my effort with the dehydrator the week before. I should fire that up more often.
Yesterday was a bit of a misery hobble. Sore feet, a race to the car and crazy strong winds – I tried to enjoy it. The gusts were enough to blow me around. One pushed me off balance while I was traversing a steep slope. It was the closest I’ve come to “being blown off the mountain”.
Last winter, with mountains on my mind, I set aside two prime summer weeks for hiking vacations. On my first, Dani and I put rubber to the road on our way to the Rubies and Sawtooths. This week, I once again did two separate hikes. This post is about the first trip in Ansel Adams Wilderness and Yosemite.
It started with Beasore Road – long, uphill, dirt, dark. My favorite departure – 4:30 p.m. on Friday, straight from the office. Late, I pulled into camp deep in the west side of the Sierra, on the edge of the upper San Joaquin. We’d pivoted from another, longer, further afield itinerary because there was too much work to be done at Dani’s office. At mine too – but boy was I ready for an escape.
This Yosemite loop, over Fernandez Pass, Merced Pass, Red Peak Pass and Post Peak Pass, has been on my list (yes, I have lists) for years. It’s accessed from numerous trailheads – all of which are a long walk away. I chose Fernandez TH for it’s remoteness, proximity to Clover Meadow and opportunity to form a true loop (as opposed to a ‘lollipop’ or balloon with a string).
Dani and I really enjoyed ourselves.
With our new tenkara rods, we caught our first fish. I, being at least a bit pathetic, fumbled with holding them and removing the flies. It was really a lot of fun.
Lower Ottaway Lake was my favorite camp – partially because of the fishing. Rutherford and Porphyry Lakes were nice as well. Porphyry especially because of it’s incredible, large, porphyritic granite. The stretch of trail north of Triple Divide Peak warrants another visit.
There is a special feeling that comes with knowing a place. Our trip provided sweeping views and I took pleasure in knowing the peaks, basins and ranges (usually by having visited them) well off in each direction. I’d walked that range, slept in that basin, crossed that pass. There is still much more to visit, but usually there are good reasons that most people don’t go.
On our way out, Dani and I walked a trail that we’d been told didn’t exist. It was mostly true. With absolutely no sign of the turn off, we headed cross country down the Post Peak drainage. Dani stuck closer to the pools and I hopped between rare cairns and traces of trail. I was a damn good time.
Tuesday afternoon, back at the cars, I’d still not made up my mind as to where to go hiking next. Dani was leaving and I’d be alone. Still cautious about being injured and alone, I wanted to stay on-trail. The list of fifty mile trips, in desirable places that I haven’t been, is becoming pretty short. Somewhat frustratingly so. Beyond decision time, I motored up and headed north to Emigrant for what I thought would be a merely O.K. use of my vacation.
We were all pretty fried and not quite ready for my plan to drive seven hours for a high mileage trip. Scratching my chin Friday night, I leveled on the idea that we should leave at 10 a.m. and sleep on the summit of Deadwood Peak. It’s a shorter drive, an easier hike and about as high as you can get in this often low-elevation wilderness.
After seeing summit camp spots on Job’s and Job’s Sister a few weeks ago, the prospect of such a night is high on my list again. Deadwood wasn’t that mountain. Camping would work, but we got there too early in the day and decided it’d be more fun to make some more miles and check out Grouse Lake.
While the hike was a b-list option, it shouldn’t have been. We walked past old growth, alpine areas, both granite and volcanic rock, two lakes and extensive views. If it was only for the swimming in Grouse Lake (which still has amphibians), I’d do the hike again in a heartbeat.
This weekend was going to be a solo. At a party on Friday night Eric invited me on his trip. I’m glad I said yes.
I’ve been suggesting it as a destination to people for years. It’s the highpoint of Tahoe and it’s easy. A few years ago, I came close when we hiked past Freel Peak on a section of the TRT. We skipped the summit even though it was only twenty minutes away. It was already a high mileage day.
Yesterday, four of us reached the summit and were rewarded with the fantastic view of the lake and most of the region.
Eric and I walked on to Job’s Sister. When he went down to the lake, I continued on towards Job’s Peak. Ridge walking ranks high up on my list of favorites when it comes to hiking and backpacking. It was a damn good day.
A little before dark I walked in to camp while the crew was having dinner. Clink, clink, a thermos of ice cubes was on hand for our whiskey.
My dinner was a risk: canned tomales that I’d dehydrated and a random collection of other mostly powdered foods. Delicious. For desert Jamie had carried in a delicious home-made birthday cake.
It’d been a bit of a hard day of hiking above 10,000 feet. Since I had to climb Job’s Sister a second time on the way back – my legs were worked.
A few bugs landed on my face during the night.
Thanks for having me on your trip crew. It was fun.